Dr. Rajiv Shah led the efforts of nearly 10,000 staff in more than 70 countries around the world to advance USAID’s mission of ending extreme poverty and promoting resilient, democratic societies.
Under Dr. Shah’s leadership, USAID applied innovative technologies and engaged the private sector to solve the world’s most intractable development challenges. This new model of development brings together an increasingly diverse community—from large companies to local civil society groups to communities of faith—to deliver meaningful results.
Dr. Shah led President Obama’s landmark Feed the Future and Power Africa initiatives and has refocused America’s global health partnerships to end preventable child death. Feed the Future, alone, has improved nutrition for 12 million children and empowered more than 7 million farmers with climate-smart tools they need to grow their way out of extreme poverty. In April 2014, USAID launched the U.S. Global Development Lab to harness the expertise of the world’s brightest scientists, students, and entrepreneurs. At the same time, the newly formed Private Capital Group for Development forges a more strategic relationship between private capital and development.
Dr. Shah also managed the U.S. Government’s humanitarian response to catastrophic crises around the world, from the devastating 2010 Haiti earthquake to Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines to the Ebola epidemic in West Africa.
Through an extensive set of reforms called “USAID Forward,” Dr. Shah worked with the United States Congress to transform USAID into the world’s premier development Agency that prioritizes public-private partnerships, innovation, and meaningful results. He currently serves on the boards of the Overseas Private Investment Corporation and the Millennium Challenge Corporation, as well as participates on the National Security Council.
Previously, Dr. Shah served as Undersecretary and Chief Scientist in the U.S. Department of Agriculture, where he created the National Institute for Food and Agriculture. Prior to joining the Obama Administration, he spent eight years at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, where he led efforts in global health, agriculture, and financial services, including the creation of the International Finance Facility for Immunization.
He is a graduate of the University of Michigan, the University of Pennsylvania Medical School, and the Wharton School of Business. He regularly appears in the media and has delivered keynote addresses before the U.S. Military Academy, the National Prayer Breakfast, and diverse audiences across Asia, Africa, and the Middle East. Dr. Shah was awarded the Distinguished Service Award by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. He has served as a World Economic Forum Young Global Leader, been named to Fortune’s 40 Under 40, and has received multiple honorary degrees.
He lives in Washington, D.C. with his wife Shivam Mallick Shah and three children and has given up mountain climbing for family bicycle rides.
JACK LESLIE: Well, good morning, everyone, and welcome to the Advisory Committee on Voluntary Foreign Aid. I’m Jack Leslie. I am delighted to serve as chair for our proceedings today. I’ll try to keep things on track. I wanted to start by thanking Georgetown University. They’ve been very nice to provide their facilities all week long for so many activities, and this big tent, which I guess gives new meaning to the word open meeting. We certainly have an open meeting. We’re glad too, that all of you came to join us this morning.
Good morning. I want to thank Dean Lancaster for opening up Georgetown for partnership and hosting this important session today. I want to thank Minister Tedros and Mr. Azad from Ethiopia and India, respectively, for co-convening this effort and the executive director of UNICEF, Tony Lake, for your leadership in making all of this possible.
I know we’re all also quite excited to hear from both Secretary Clinton and Ben Affleck this morning. And so we’re eager to see them and I thank so many honored guests and excellencies who have come from around the world to be with us. Welcome to Washington.
Thinking back to the lesson of the Central African Republic, our strategies must involve them as planners, implementers and beneficiaries of all our programs. We have an expression at AID: “Nothing about them without them.” Let that admonition guide our work over the next two days. I wish you a productive two days, and I look forward to the outcome of your deliberations and follow up actions.
As you’ve probably had to explain to your grandparents, I’m Raj Shah, Administrator of the United States Agency for International Development. Hopefully that explanation was easier than usual, because unlike many audiences I’m asked to speak to, most of you have actually heard of USAID.
How do I know?
Last week, I sent an e-mail to our Agency’s staff, telling them that I’d be at SIS and asking alumni to share their experiences. I assumed I’d get a handful of replies, with alumni telling me about their favorite classes or the name of a popular hangout that I could mention for an easy applause line. But then e-mails started flooding in. From Angola and the Philippines and Lesotho and Bolivia. From a gender advisor working to ensure pregnant mothers have access to HIV medication so their children are born AIDS-free. And from a member of our cutting-edge mobile partnerships team, who’s helping transform Haiti into one of the world’s first mobile banking economies.
[As prepared for delivery]
I consider it a true privilege to visit this university. Generations of leaders and scholars from this university overcame towering obstacles and deep injustices to shape a better future, and it’s truly humbling to address students who uphold that tradition.
But I also consider it a privilege to speak before your class in particular, the Tuskegee class of 2012.
Thank you and good morning. I'm delighted to be here again today - it is always a pleasure to visit Kansas City. I first attended this conference almost a decade ago, when it was much smaller. The growth of this conference is one of the strongest affirmations of the importance of the work we do together. And this past year more than ever underscored the critical role of U.S. food assistance around the world. In any given year-not just in times of crisis-American farmers from more than 26 states provide food for our assistance programs. People here today know better than most the importance of our global leadership in providing help to those in need.
Last June when I visited Kansas City for this conference, the United States was in the midst of a full throttle response to crisis in the Horn of Africa. More than 13 million people in the dry lands of Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, and Somalia were in urgent need of help, including more than three million in Somalia alone, where conflict exacerbated the most severe drought in 60 years. We had been tracking the potential of this crisis through the Famine Early Warning System (FEWSNET), a tool USAID has funded for the last 25 years that gives us much earlier and more precise data about climate conditions, projected rainfall, crop production and marketplace functioning. As a result of early warnings that FEWSNET began signaling in August 2010, we were able to have food pre-positioned by that fall.
Ladies and Gentlemen:
It is a great honor to address this forum on the challenge of delivering effective development assistance in a changing global landscape, characterized by what I call "the democratization of development."
The fact remains that almost seven million children, most of them in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia will die before they reach their fifth birthday. They won't attend kindergarten and they won't get backpacks or any other presents. Let's not be naïve. We know that preventable child death has always been a fact of life in human history. What is unique and what gives me pause both as the USAID Administrator and as a father is that for the first time in history we really do have the tools and know-how necessary to change this brutal fact of life. Many of them can in fact fit in the backpack. To demonstrate that to you I will show you some of my favorite ones.
Last year, for the first time in history, the majority of all people lived in cities. In China, the world's largest human migration in history continues to lead millions from the country's rural interior to its coast. In India, the migration pattern is North to South, from poorer states to megacities like Mumbai.
Today there are 60 cities in China with populations greater than one million; India has 45 while the U.S. and Europe have 25 combined. But it's not just Asia; Africa and Latin America both have at least 50 cities. And within those growing cities are slums-massive labyrinths of makeshift housing designed to accommodate the swelling ranks of the urban poor. Nearly everyone has seen images of slums like these either up close or in movies like Slumdog Millionaire. And they all look just like this: blue tarps, tin roofs, rubble and litter at every turn.
My first experience with dire poverty was in this exact slum-Dharavi, in Mumbai, India-where my uncle first took me on my first trip to India at age five. Because this is the image of poverty most of us are familiar with, most of us assume that this is how the poorest people in the world live.
But the most accurate depiction of poverty isn't this image.
This past year, despite enduring the long hangover of the global financial crisis, the fifty largest donors gave $10.4 billion dollars. Today, we at USAID are working to capture the tremendous potential of this community-partnering in new ways to leverage your experiences, expertise and resources. And focus on pivotal opportunities in development will enable us to get ahead of global trends that are placing unprecedented pressures on planet.
Last updated: March 26, 2015